Why renegade senator sued own party

COURT - GERRARD RENNICK LAWSUIT
A renegade LNP senator has learned whether his lawsuit against his own party - prompted after he was booted from the senate ticket - was successful.

Renegade LNP Senator Gerard Rennick has suffered a major court loss after launching legal action against his own party when his bid for a senate spot was dashed during an internal party ballot.

Senator Rennick was booted off the LNP’s senate ticket last July after losing his spot by just three votes to party treasurer Stuart Fraser.

After failing to appeal the decision with the party, he took them to court – naming Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, Nationals Leader David Littleproud and even Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner in his Supreme Court lawsuit.

COURT - GERRARD RENNICK LAWSUIT
LNP Senator Gerard Rennick has failed in his Supreme Court bid to seek an appeal of the party’s preselection where he was booted off the third spot on the party’s senate ticket. Picture: NewsWire/Tertius Pickard

Senator Rennick was seeking declarations that he was entitled to appeal this ballot and his appeal was not lost by the expiration of time.

On Thursday, Judge Glenn Martin dismissed Senator Rennick’s application.

He was also ordered to pay standard costs – with indemnity costs applied from May 11.

Senator Rennick asserted there were “grave irregularities” with the voting process and he had been unfairly treated during the preselection bid.

This was dismissed by the LNP’s Disputes Committee in August, which found there was insufficient evidence to justify the vote was void.

Senator Rennick was seeking a declaration that he was entitled to appeal the August decision, along with a declaration that his entitlement to appeal was not lost by “reason of effluxion of time”.

He also asked for an injunction requiring the State Council to hear any appeal and determine it in accordance with the Constitution.

Judge Martin said a decision in Senator Rennick’s favour on the application alone would not affect the preselection result.

“It would only require that State Council consider the second appeal. That is of importance in light of the applicant’s submissions about justiciability,” he stated in his published judgment.

COURT - GERRARD RENNICK LAWSUIT
Senator Rennick lost his senate spot by just three votes during an internal ballot at last year’s state conference. Picture: NewsWire/Tertius Pickard
LNP treasurer Stuart Fraser (pictured) won preselection. Picture: Supplied
LNP treasurer Stuart Fraser (pictured) won preselection. Picture: Supplied

He said the only questions before the court concerned “the capacity to appeal the August decision”, and it was notabout failing to comply with preselection processes.

“It is, in effect, a complaint that a breach of the Liberal National Party of Queensland’s (LNPQ) rules has been committed,” Judge Martin said.

“As such, the applicant cannot maintain any action directly founded upon that complaint except to enforce or establish some right of a proprietary nature.

“No such right is contended for.”

In his judgment, Judge Martin said it was open to the LNP State Executive to determine the question of appeal period “as it sees fit”.

“While I will not make a declaration about what might be a reasonable time limit for appealing a decision, I am content to decide that this appeal, lodged seven months after the decision, is outside any reasonable time limit,” he noted.

Senator Rennick gained a reputation as an outspoken critic of the efficacy of vaccines during the Morrison government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

PETER DUTTON PRESSER
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton is among 33 respondents named in Senator Rennick’s Supreme Court action. Picture: NewsWire / Nikki Short
PREMIER STEVEN MILES
Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner is another figure named in the lawsuit. Picture: NewsWire/Tertius Pickard

He argued his attempts to appeal the preselection during the LNP’s state conference in Brisbane last year were denied, after the State Council determined the appeal was not lodged within the statutory 60-day time frame.

During a hearing last month, the court was told people eligible to vote for senators at State Council, under the party’s constitution, were usually given different coloured lanyards and those entitled to vote were “physically segregated”.

Michael Stewart KC, representing Senator Rennick, said neither of these acts occurred on this occasion.

Senator Rennick alleges in his affidavit he was given a voting paper by an LNP employee, despite the fact he was not eligible to vote.

He further claims another person mentioned in the affidavit was ineligible to vote at the time of the ballot as she had not paid her party fees on time, but was still able to cast a vote in the ballot.

“Much of the evidence relied upon by the senator paints a picture of a state council meeting which was run in an unprofessional manner,” Mr Stewart told the court.

“It is our submission there’s a very strong case with contending with the appeal.”

He said there was nothing in the LNP constitution which gave Senator Rennick the right of any further address.

“All he can do is what he was attempting to do in pursuing his appeal, which has been thwarted by the state executive,” Mr Stewart said.